Teach For America - DFW chatted with Christine McClary (Dallas-Fort Worth '11) about how her teaching experience motivated her to pursue a Master's degree in speech-language pathology for bilingual students.
April 4, 2016
Teach For America - Dallas–Fort Worth (TFA): Tell us about your graduate program at Texas Christian University (TCU).
Christine McClary (CM): I am currently completing my M.S. degree in the Emphasis in Bilingual Speech-Language Pathology (EBSLP) program at TCU. The program prepares students to work with culturally and linguistically diverse children and adults who present with communication disorders. In the school setting, this means speech-language pathologists (SLPs) work with a wide range of students, from those with mild articulation delays to more severe phonological or language impairments. SLPs can also work with students with a variety of diagnoses that may impede their ability to acquire communication skills, for example Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) or Down Syndrome.
TFA: Fort Worth ISD and TCU have a strong partnership with one another and the community. How does your program specifically work with the school district to support students?
CM: The EBSLP program at TCU is fortunate to have a collaboration with Fort Worth ISD called Ranitas en el Campo. Through Ranitas, bilingual graduate students run weekly speech and language therapy sessions for Spanish-speaking children ages 3-5. We also complete bilingual speech and language evaluations and counsel parents on best practices for facilitating language development in their child. Additionally, bilingual graduate students complete clinical placements with current monolingual SLPs in Fort Worth ISD, helping them run therapy sessions for their bilingual students who otherwise may not receive services in Spanish, and also learning from their experiences working within the public schools.
TFA: How did your experience as a Teach For America corps member shape your future aspirations?
CM: My teaching experience is what motivated me to pursue speech-language pathology. In the schools, I saw a shortage of bilingual speech therapists, meaning that students who already struggle with language were receiving language intervention in their weaker language, and/or by someone who has not had training in bilingual speech and language development. This is a gap that I saw that I could fill. Language learning is also a passion of mine, so the choice to pursue speech pathology was clearly the right one for me — it was a convergence of my passions, talents, and interests.
TFA: You taught in Fort Worth ISD, where many of our corps members and alumni talk about being part of a “community within a community” since it’s the smaller of the two cities that make up DFW. Did your experience living and teaching in Fort Worth influence your decision to continue your education at TCU?
CM: Going to TCU also allowed me to stay local and connected with the community in which I taught. I chose to attend TCU because they have arguably the longest-running bilingual SLP program in the country, and are focused on creating exceptional bilingual clinicians. TCU does produce great research as well, but their utmost goal for students is to leave the program with excellent clinical skills, which is what the students in our public schools need and deserve. I am graduating in May, so I am currently applying for jobs for my clinical fellowship year. My focus is on local public school districts, but I am also considering early childhood / pediatric programs as well.